Turkey has reached its capacity in taking in refugees, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday, signaling Ankara’s reluctance to admit more migrants in the event of an influx from Syria’s Idlib region, Reuters reported.
The three presidents of the main outside players — Turkey, Russia and Iran — in Syria’s long war were meeting to discuss the fate of Idlib as rival factions there prepared for what could be the conflict’s last great battle.
In his remarks in Tehran, which were broadcast live on Turkish television, Erdoğan said any attack on Idlib would result in a disaster and that millions of civilians there would be moving towards the Turkish border.
Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
Erdoğan said Idlib is not only important for Syria’s political future but also “vital” for Turkey’s national security and regional peace and stability, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency.
“We never want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath. We expect you to support us in our efforts,” he added.
Turkey cannot leave Idlib to the mercy of the Bashar al-Assad regime, he said.
“If we can declare a cease-fire here, it will be one of the most important steps of the summit, and it will relieve the civilians,” Erdoğan added.
Erdoğan also reported that representatives of the three guarantor states, namely Turkey, Russia and Iran, would gather in Geneva with UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura in the coming days.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said harming the Syrian government and supporting the terrorists in Idlib on the pretext of protecting civilians could not be tolerated, according to the T24 news website.
“We call on terrorists to disarm in line with Erdoğan’s advice,” Putin added.
The Syrian civil war, which began in late 2011, has caused the displacement of millions of people and started a refugee flow to neighboring countries.
Turkey backed the rebel groups inside the country, while Russia and Iran supported the Syrian government. The Turkish army and Free Syrian Army, a faction within the rebels, have recently conducted operations in the northern part of Syria.
Turkey, Russia and Iran previously engaged in diplomatic efforts to prevent harm to the civilian population of Aleppo, which at that time was held by rebel groups. Most of the militants in Aleppo had reportedly moved to Idlib, the last stronghold of the rebel groups.